Sanjay Dutt sets the scene for fee hike for film shoots in jail

Sanjay Dutt’s jail stint has, unexpectedly, upped the rental worth of prison facilities.

Sanjay Dutt
Show me the money: Cameras placed outside Yerawada jail in Pune, where Sanjay Dutt is serving time. File pics

After 10 years of loaning out its prisons to be captured on celluloid for a certain fee, the state’s home department has raised the bar on milking these high-risk installations. It has revised the charges for shooting films inside and outside jails.

Reel effect: Sanjay Dutt before he was moved to Pune’s Yerawada prison after his conviction under the Arms Act in a case linked to the 1993 Mumbai blasts. File pic

And there is probable cause to believe that the cost correction is partly owed to the presence of the actor in Yerawada Jail. A few days ago, Munnabhai director Rajkumar Hirani went to the Pune facility to sit in on the dry run of a play featuring Dutt.

As it turned out, star-struck prison officials turned the rendezvous into a beaming photo op with the celebs, thus ruffling a lot of feathers higher up in the pecking order. The state administration was furious, ready to trap jail officials for glorifying an actor who is doing time after being convicted in a case related to the 1993 Mumbai blasts.

Not only is this the first time in a decade that the establishment has thought of levying a substantially higher amount, but this is the first time ever that it will impose restrictions on the film crew while interacting with jail inmates or including them in the shoots.

The last hike came in August 2003.

The state order issued recently gives a go-ahead to a year-old proposal by additional director general and inspector general for prisons. It was submitted for revision on September 1 last year.

Arguing that the charges applicable for film shoots were too low, the state home department says that Rs 30,000 will be charged on day one of shooting inside jails, which is twofold the sum charged in 2003. Filming outside of the edifice is less pocket-wrenching for producers -- Rs 15,000 as of today, up from 7,500 in 2003.

The charges climb up progressively with each day of the shoot. While all those years ago, the fee scale comprised cumulative increments of Rs 2,500 every day, the differential is Rs 7,500 now as each day passes.

As such, for a five-day shoot, a producer will have to shell out Rs 60,000 now, opposed to Rs 45,000 a decade ago (see box for comparisons).

“The government thinks no producer or director would prefer to shoot beyond five days,” a state government official said. “Even though it was decided to review shooting charges every three years, the recent hike is being made after 10 years,” he added.

Reality check
Key restrictions on film shootings in jail:

>> Presence of jail inmates will not be allowed during shoots
>> No member of the film unit will be allowed to interact with the inmates
>> No officer will remain present at the shooting location
>> Film unit will ensure that routine activities at the prison are not disturbed by the shooting.
>> Time restrictions will be followed as set down

Rs 30,000
Cost of shooting inside a jail for the first day, up from Rs 15,000

Film industry reacts
Madhur Bhandarkar, who wanted to shoot his film Jail in a jail is glad with the decision. He says, “I was very keen on shooting the film in a real jail. We did a recce of about four jails, Thane jail, Yerawada jail, a jail in Chandigarh and the Tihar jail.

A still from Madhur Bhandarkar’s film, Jail, starring Neil Nitin Mukesh

But then we realised that considering we needed 60 days of shoot inside the jail, it wouldn’t be feasible for us, since the convicts would try and hassle us. I had about 300 actors dressed as jail inmates and the real convicts who, about 2,000 in number, would act smart and try to mingle since they were dressed similarly. I realised this might raise a lot of security issues. I am so glad that now one can shoot inside in a much more organised manner. For filmmakers who wanted to shoot skeleton scenes, the earlier arrangement was good enough, but some of us, like me, want to shoot major portions of their film in a jail and this comes as a welcome change. For a filmmaker who is looking for authenticity and real background, this can only help as we don’t have to worry about convicts and also there would be more discipline. Extra money paid would be worth it. Earlier they would give a dead section of the jail which was not operational, but even then there would be a crowd of inmates there. We had to recreate the entire jail in a studio and that costs money too. Our art director had visited a jail at that time and did a replica on the sets. People thought we had shot in an actual jail. We, however, did our music launch in Tihar jail and that was a pleasant experience.”

Director Vivek Agnihotri, who was recently denied permission to shoot in Tihar jail for his political thriller Freedom, says the decision is a welcomed change. 

“If this decision means the permissions etc will get streamlined, then one wouldn’t mind paying extra. For so many years, we, filmmakers had to make do with the same jail that’s set up in Filmistan Studio. We are so worried about not getting permissions that we ultimately go to that readymade jail set up in the studio. I have seen a couple of jails and I think they are very different from the stereotypical central jail that we show in movies. In fact, the jail in Bhopal was beautiful and full of greenery. It would be such a pleasure for a filmmaker to shoot in authentic loctions given that we don’t have to deal with any kind of security or bureaucratic hassles. Even though earlier we were allowed to shoot in jails and other government departments, the process of getting permission is so long that one would give up midway. I hope those things change too. I mean if we can shoot inside the House in the US,
why can’t we do that here? 

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